Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review
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Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris looks to build on the successful anime and virtual world-centered story of the Sword Art Online universe. With recent games receiving mixed reception from fans and critics alike, is this latest addition to the franchise a return to form?

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Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris looks to build on the successful anime and virtual world-centered story of the Sword Art Online universe. With recent games receiving mixed reception from fans and critics alike, is this latest addition to the franchise a return to form?

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

The story takes place in the Underworld, a strange virtual reality that doesn’t conform to the virtual reality worlds the protagonist Kirito is used to visiting. Kirito awakens in the Underworld with no memory of how he got there, wandering aimlessly through the forest until he meets a chirpy young fellow named Eugeo. What follows is a journey of brotherly love as the two make for the Imperial Swordcraft Academy in the hopes of graduating and becoming Integrity Knights – all in an effort to rescue Eugeo’s childhood friend Alice.

The overall narrative of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris blends the detailed science fiction-fueled aspect of Sword Art Online’s virtual reality-centered story, with the high fantasy setting of the Underworld, creating an intriguing and worthwhile story that evolves and develops as the game progresses. While Kirito and Eugeo’s original goal is entirely centered around the actions and well-being of the characters within the Underworld, the latter stages of the story introduces more real world implications. While I didn’t see the story to its climax, its combination of a deep cast of relatable characters and twisting narrative make for a worthwhile adventure.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is a game with systems within systems and mechanics within mechanics. It’s complex, deep, challenging, and ultimately very rewarding – if you have the patience to micro-manage the entire experience. Everything from the combat system to building relationships with characters is hidden within often unexplained sub-systems. Diving into each of these systems, a virtual autopsy of mechanics, is a worthwhile venture. However, it won’t appeal to everyone.

Kirito and friends join the fray with a huge variety of weapons, each with different combination attacks and each working differently when combined with attacks from other party members. While it is possible to get by simply controlling Kirito, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris’ battle system shines when you begin to combo different attacks from your allies. Explosive combos, chain effects, launching enemies into the air – the combat system is arguably the best a Sword Art Online game has ever seen. Nevertheless, you really need to dive deep into the engine to get a full understanding of how all the different mechanics combine.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

My first few hours of the game were like walking into a new theme park for the first time. The fresh smell of cotton candy, the exuberant screams of fellow adventurers, the spinning cups ahead while the iconic roller coaster tracks mingle and weave through the environment in the distance. After some time, I quickly realized there’s a three hour queue for everything and I’m too short for half of the rides. Don’t make fun of me; short people like rides too.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris features an almost MMO style approach to its economy, crafting, character development, and gear progression system. This is a theme park filled with potential and possibility. While this may appeal to some players, the amount of grinding required to even make measly progress in these features was something I was not expecting, and ultimately was enough to put me off exploring much of its crafting and development features after 10 to 20 hours. There are parts where this MMO inspired design is almost enough to immerse you in Sword Art Online’s dedication to the MMOVR narrative, but the payoff just wasn’t there.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

If you are familiar with JRPGs and have a passion for the Sword Art Online source material, there’s plenty of content on offer. A deep progression system across multiple characters, tons of potential builds, a rewarding combat system, absolutely insane amounts of side content – it has everything to offer, but the delivery will not be for everyone.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris could be one of the most impressive JRPGs to release in some time, but despite its insane dedication to providing tons of content for players, it falls short on the more basic principles of design. Most notably are a number of technical issues that, while initially annoying at best, quickly grow to becoming very frustrating. This was enough for me to stop playing entirely.

The frame rates, while stable for much of the experience, often leave a jarring experience during the more technical visuals, the lock-on mechanic in combat is poor, there is infinite falling, and the title contains a bundle of basic technical flaws that really hinder the experience. Then there’s the rather bizarre input lag.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

In a game that relies so heavily on combination attacks and perfect timing, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris has one glaring issue that never should have seen the light of release. The input lag, at least on the PlayStation 4 Pro, was often as high as an entire second. Jumping, swinging a sword, activating abilities – none of them are instant. A brief delay between pressing the button and the execution is constant throughout, and almost reason enough to avoid the game entirely.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is a game that many will love, but many more will not. With some interest in the source material and a passion for the JRPG space, there’s probably 100 hours worth of content here for dedicated players. Unfortunately, glaringly obvious technical problems hinder what would otherwise be an amazing Sword Art Online game.

This review of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris was done on the PlayStation 4 Pro. A digital code was provided by the publisher.
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